Kind of lost my blogging spirit just now. But it will return. I haven't lost my writing spirit though so in the meantime here's the first 850 words of my novel (first draft)...
My brother was seven when he killed me. I was four. He managed to get me into our parent’s wicker laundry basket, where the dark stuffiness set off a panic attack and I passed out. When I stopped fighting against his weight on the lid, he opened it to find me slumped. He thought I was pretending but when pulling my hair didn’t rouse me, he screamed.
‘I’ve killed Claire!’ he had shouted. ‘Help Mum, help!’
Hughie told me years later he had debated putting the lid down and pretending he hadn’t seen me. He was afraid of getting into trouble.
Less than a week later he trapped me in the basket yet again, with the promise that if I went in, he would give me a chocolate biscuit. I didn’t pass out that time, and I never got a chocolate biscuit.
He was twenty-three when he killed himself. Yet I still expected him to turn up at our mother’s funeral, wearing the same clothes as the last time I saw him. Hair damp with rain and breath smelling of polo mints, still twenty-three as if he’d been frozen in time for the last twelve years. I would be the older sibling now.
I had started to feel him; it was as if Mum’s death had allowed him to resurface. I saw him across crowded streets or on passing buses, I could feel his energy as I walked into a room. That faded scent of gum and aftershave, as if he had just left. I had lost Mum but Hughie was coming back to me. I didn’t know why, but I knew he was there.
Mum’s funeral was on a bleak day in April that felt more like October. There was dew on the church grass, and the sycamores were full of arguing crows, nests spiky against the colourless sky. Instead of Hughie by my side, I was sandwiched in the front pew between my father and my estranged husband, the fractured remains of our family pretending to be strong, to appear solid. If I could have swapped those men who flanked me in that freezing, polish-scented church for Mum and Hughie, I’d have done so in a heartbeat. I considered this as the Minister spoke words about my mother that I chose not to listen to. Instead my pulse hammered in my ears, and a tension built inside me that made me want to scream, to lash out. I eased it as best I could by rubbing my elbows with my hands and jiggling my knees. Luke thought I was cold; he whispered in my ear, asked if I wanted his jacket. I shook my head. I was alone without Mum, and thinking about it made my breath tighten. It had been me and her for so long now. Ever since Hughie died, it had been me and her. Not through choice; it was just how it was.
Luke kept swallowing as if he were nervous, or about to be sick. I wanted to nudge him and tell him to stop it. Dad was clean shaven with a couple of nicks on his jawline. Maybe he had decided to come at the last minute. He didn’t have to be here. Pam and the children – my half-siblings – weren’t here. And nor was Angela, my so-called best friend. I hadn’t expected her though. I was torn between relief that she had stayed away, and annoyance that she hadn’t bothered turning up. The idea of an awkward scene between her, Luke and I seemed both amusing and horrific. I put my hands between my thighs and pulled myself as far away from Dad and Luke as I could. I didn’t want to touch either of them.
Luke put his hand on the small of my back as we shuffled out of the pew. I cringed, tried to pull away. As we stepped onto the aisle, someone slipped from a back pew and out of the door. My breath caught; time stood still, just for that second. I pushed past Dad and ran up the aisle, then burst out of the dark church and blinked in the grey daylight. I shielded my eyes, scoured the churchyard but there was no sign of him. I ran to the gate, the gravel crunching under my boots, and I looked up and down the street. I was headlight, slightly off-centre, as if none of this were really happening.
‘Claire? Are you alright?’ Dad called, and I realised how stricken I must look.
‘I thought I saw…’
He sighed, pursed his lips together and made to put his arm around me. I shrugged him off. They needed to stop touching me!
‘I wish he was here too, Claire,’ he said softly before turning away and leaving me there, clasping my elbows and frowning.
Dad thought I had ‘seen’ Hughie. But it wasn’t Hughie this time, it was Ruairidh. Ruairidh, who was very much still alive as far as I knew, but not someone I expected to see at my Mother’s funeral. Perhaps I really was going mad.
No need for any comments. Just hope you enjoyed it, if you managed to read to the end!